Thursday, May 12, 2011
Mike Baroni loves what he does – enough to brave severe bodily harm.
“I get hit by cars all the time,” says the 24-year-old owner of Green Pedal, Monterey’s only bike courier service.
Three months ago a car dragged him 15 feet on the ground and left him with a broken leg. But that didn’t stop him and his team of five part-time employees, who are largely MIIS and MPC students, from self-propelling through everything from 30-degree dawns to heavy rain to deliver burritos, diapers and groceries – and, more commonly, court filings and medical documents – across the county.
“I want to serve the people who live with me and work around me,” Baroni says.
He charges $5 to $10 depending on distance, regardless of weight and size of the package, as long as he is able to strap it to his back.
In-city deliveries, he says, take 10-12 minutes tops. His longest delivery to date, a Monterey-Salinas route, took 35 minutes with the aid of a handoff to one of his Salinas-based riders at the Marina midpoint. Baroni adds that he once beat a FedEx truck delivering a medical specimen from Monterey to Ryan Ranch.
“It was neck-to-neck,” says Baroni, who acknowledges the driver caught a lot of red lights.
Tutelege from Rick Graves of Santa Cruz’s Clutch Couriers helped Baroni develop business cards, a company logo and postcards. Though business remains slow, Baroni does enjoy sporadic errands for clients like Joselyn’s Bicycles, Adventures By The Sea and Dunnion and Fischer Schrader.
“Mike’s fast, local, and we like giving back to the community,” says Frank Pinto of Joselyn’s Bicycles. “Plus, his rates are competitive, and he gives off zero emissions into the environment.”
Baroni’s so into the gig, in fact, that he’s even doing deliveries by donation in an effort to get his business rolling. (His girlfriend, who works at Naval Postgraduate School, helps support him in the meantime.)
“I don’t make very much at all,” he says, “but I want my community to reach out to me. Let’s get this thing going.”
Reach Green Pedal at 920-8181 or www.greenpedal.org
The Change Agent
Your excuses for driving are no good with Mari Lynch Dehmler. She’s got Googlable evidence that it’s perfectly safe – chic, even – to bike while pregnant, or in a business suit, or in the rain at night. Destination too far? Throw your bike on a bus (or car) and pedal part of the way. Don’t have a bike? She’ll merrily connect you with a nearby bike rental.
Dehmler’s love of biking began when she was a kid in small-town Illinois. It blossomed into passion when she lived in Santa Cruz in the late ’70s, biking 100 miles a week while working for a healthy-living magazine. In 1981 she moved to her current home off Highway 68, and spent the next three decades raising her two kids, working from home as a writer/editor, and enjoying hearty rural bike rides.
What started as Dehmler’s personal blog two years ago quickly evolved into an umbrella website for all things two-wheeled in Monterey County: www.bicyclingmonterey.com. The site includes biking tips for tourists and residents, resource lists, bike news and Mari’s own green-tinted musings.
It’s also the cyber-HQ of HER Helmet Thursdays, an ecology-economy initiative she launched in November 2009. The idea: Bike on a Thursday, get discounts at participating local hotels, educational and entertainment venues, and restaurants (H-E-R). The goal: To support local businesses, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and boost Monterey County’s bike-friendly street cred.
Within two months of launching HER Helmet Thursdays, Dehmler had roped in about 50 local businesses. Now that number’s close to 200. She doesn’t get paid for the work, but she feels gratified by the pace of her own private initiative – in contrast with the slow-motion progress of bike-friendly regulations and infrastructure.
Although Dehmler herself is a Green-Party environmentalist, that DIY ethic is inspired by her Republican dad. “If there’s something in your community that needs doing, you don’t wait until all the pieces are in place,” she says. “You just jump in and do it.”
In other words, mount up. And enjoy the ride.
Visit Biking Monterey at www.bicyclingmonterey.com
Today his florescent-yellow windbreaker covers a wrinkle-free dress shirt and slacks. His biking shoes, blue helmet, sunglasses and ankle bands provide safety precautions for the trek ahead. The details also demonstrate that this year’s Silver Helmet Award Winner – nominated by co-workers for daily bike commuters who’ve racked up respectable mileage – is not simply a recreational biker.
For four years, Diego Luberczuk has been biking to work, a round trip of 11 miles. Last year, he rallied 46 staff members at Salinas HSBC Bank to participate in Bike-to-Work Week, who in turn totaled more than 700 accumulative miles and helped earn him the HSBC Sustainability Leadership Award, chosen out of thousands of employees internationally.
“It’s been pretty busy here, but he is still making the phone calls to get people motivated [to bike],” says co-worker Lisa Miller, who cycled an impressive 23 miles one way from Pacific Grove for the occasion. “I always see him biking to and from work… how can you turn him down?”
It only makes sense, Luberczuk replies.
“Reducing my carbon footprint and commuting to work is good for my health, and it saves on my budget,” he says. “In that sense it is win-win-win.”
In his native Argentina, bike commutes are more common. “It is something that I have grown up with,” he says. “Back in those days it was not about carbon.”
Luberczuk takes a zig-zagging route to and from work: Airport Boulevard to the Salinas Fairways Golf Course, and proceeding along Williams Road and Freedom Parkway.
Along the way, he encounters a community. “There is quite a bit of camaraderie with the folks who ride here in Salinas,” he says. “It’s not like two drivers. We wave and greet each other. A bond forms with complete strangers.”
Bike to Work Day is Thursday, May 12.